Let's be honest - in the 21st century the wussification of men has been in full force.   Being a man is out if that means not being a politically correct, hyper-sensitive, asexual, homogenized follower of all that is cool and popular among the cultural intelligentsia.

But testosterone levels are dropping and that could mean any number of consequences for the future of our species. Now you have one more science excuse to sack up and stop identifying as a metrosexual; a group of researchers concluded in 2010 that modest males endure social backlash because they are not 'macho' enough. We may not like arrogant people but meek people are annoying too.

Their study (well, surveys of undergraduates - as legendary psychologist Paul Ekman said at the Being Human conference, "We basically have a science of undergraduates") included 132 female and 100 male volunteers who viewed videotaped job interviews of men and women - yet the tapes were not just of regular folks, all of the 'job applicants' were paid actors told to deliver 'modest' responses for a technical job that also required social skills.

The psychologists noted that the applicants in the staged interviews were considered competent but the more meek males were less liked, which they concluded is a sign of social backlash - modesty is equated to weakness, they contend, a low-status character trait for males. Modesty in women, however, was not viewed negatively nor was it linked to status.

No more modesty.  It's time to be less Clark Kent and more Superman, say social psychologists.  Credit: Rutgers

Obviously this requires some calibration. First, if both males and females were thinking less of the males than the females, there could easily be other factors in play. If it were just men doing the penalizing, the machismo penalty would be more evident.  Should we instead believe female psychology undergraduates viewing the videos dislike modest men? Second, lead author Corinne A. Moss-Racusin's thesis was on the topic of negative reactions to women who fail to behave in a female sex-typed way so she tends to look for negative reactions, and her specific concern is how stereotypes impact the workplace.   It merits study, obviously, but college-age males and females are hardly indicative of hiring managers or society-at-large.

"For men and women, there are things they must and must not be," Moss-Racusin said about the work. "Women must be communal and other-oriented, but they must not be dominant. Historically and cross-culturally, men have been stereotyped as more agentic, that is, more independent and self-focused than women.  Women are allowed to be weak while this trait is strongly prohibited in men.  By contrast, dominance is reserved for men and prohibited for women."

Where did all that come from?   No idea.   Certainly not the study.   So did the study show that the 'modest' males would face hiring discrimination?  No, but there is an answer for that also - men's status is higher than women's so even meek men get the benefit of the doubt and are less likely to encounter hiring discrimination than dominant women. White male privilege - or even any male privilege - even applies to the wussy ones.

The researchers seem not to notice they are in a field dominated by dominant women - 75% of social psychology students and professionals are women.  So it is unlikely men are catching any special break in that arena, and they do not disclose the location of this magical place where men still rule the world. Is it engineering, a 'technical' field? No, women have income parity there, higher than any field in America. It must be in environmentalism jobs that men dominate, because gender pay levels there show that women have been trapped in the 1960s.

Since so many men are more modest these days, and the authors contend there is an economic backlash, how are men still making more money?  It's a mystery of social psychology.

Citation: Corinne A Moss-Racusin, Julie E.  Phelan, Laurie A. Rudman, Psychology of Men&Masculinity, Vol 11(2), Apr 2010, 140-151. doi: 10.1037/a0018093